So its been several weeks since my first part of this series. Suffice it to say that alot has happened. In the interest of brevity, I will summarize here. My intent over the next, say… 8 weeks or so is to document the remainder of this adventure with pictures.
Cleanup of the basement was somewhat involved. Once the initial water was gone, it was clear that what remained was essentially trashed. Most of the furniture (desks, couch, chair, a good portion of shelving, etc was all water damaged and barely, if at all usable. We had a few scary days where we had a mold bloom down there and really thought we were going to have to move out. A bit of creative fan work and that was resolved.
At this point, we had some hard thinking to do. We have, essentially since we first moved in here, wanted to redo the basement. A previous owner, and we’re not even sure which (though we certainly have suspicions) “finished” the basement. You’ll note the quotation marks please, as they are quite intentional. How you should really read that sentence is “A previous owner seriously fucked up the basement”. How, you ask? No new electrical circuits, they simply tied lines to upstairs junction boxes. Several lines were never even properly connected, leaving bare, live wires in the ceiling. Several wires were reversed in the “coloring” of the wires. So that green wire you thought carried ground? Nope, not so much. Good way to kill someone, quite honestly. And speaking of grounding… NO outlets, even those near water sources, were GFI. Oh, yeah… speaking of water sources? Hmm… this warrants a bit further explanation…
Since we’ve moved in, we’ve had several “events” where we’ve had basement flooding at a much less serious level than this one. Normally only during serious rainstorms, and usually only when the gutters were not working properly in their jobs of carrying water away from the house. When this would happen, the source of water would always appear to be coming from somewhere behind the shower. So as we’re going through this process of evaluating the costs of redoing the basement, we’re somewhat fearful. What are we going to find behind that shower? Some serious chasm in the foundation that is letting water seep in? Even to the extent of having someone come out and price out fitting the basement with a perimeter “gutter” system that would all run back to a sump (about $11000, btw). Scary stuff. So… we’re tearing out the basement down to the concrete (I’m getting ahead of myself a little bit), and eventually get to the shower. What did we find behind it?
Wait for it…
A window. Right. Quality work there, I tell you. They had closed the window, put in two layers of styrofoam, duct taped it to the frame, and stuck the shower in front of it. In all honesty, it was a relief. Once we got over the shock of just how inept they were, we were mostly grateful that we were not going to have to go through some serious cash to water proof our investment.
Ok, so back on the timeline again… we had several contracting companies come over to walk through with us. Initially, we were thinking we would ask them to give us some design ideas (most of them will do that step for free to get your business). Then we would evaluate the designs, and attempt to do as much of this ourselves as we could. The only parts that (well, time and money permitting, obviously) I will absolutely NOT do myself are electrical work and plumbing. There are good reasons those tasks require permits and inspections and “certification” that you’re not making the dwelling unsafe to live in (like say, the previous owners had). Second, electricity is scary. I probably have explained this in previous posts, but I’m too lazy to go search for them and link them right now.
For those of you who aren’t savvy to such things, I’ll give you some quick pointers. At least in this area, a “basement finishing” will run you about $35/sq.ft. This is an *average* price, with average allowances for all the things you can decide on, like paint, rugs, hardware (door knobs, faucets, lighting, etc). If you choose really premium options for those things, it gets more expensive. Anything beyond the “normal” work you’d expect someone to do.
Ok, so at this point you’re probably thinking… “so whats the big deal, you get the insurance money, spend it on the new basement, done deal, right?”. No. See…. the insurance company isn’t paying for the refinish. Their paying for exactly the things they assessed to be damaged beyond repair, and that DID NOT include the drywall or structural elements down there. The only significant structural piece they’re covering is the floor covering. So that is why this was such a hard path to go down. This is not cheap, and while we did have some savings… it didn’t really add up to that. Suffice to say we wrangled together what we needed to.
Contractor selection was interesting. We had everything from very professional treatment to a pair of stoned guys with a tape measure. With several more in between that I could get into, but won’t. In the end, after lots of back and forth discussion over design details and examining quotes and checking of references, we ended up going with . I’m going to reserve any statement about quality of work since they haven’t begun yet, but the experience so far has been very positive. They are responsive, attentive to our input and questions, willing to work with us on a variety of “nitpicky” elements, and their references were stellar. They also completely itemized the quote, giving us complete transparency into which elements we have the ability to cut back on or splurge on. They even listed their own profit in the quote. I really can’t ask for more than that.
As I inferred earlier, the first step was to completely gut the basement. A few quick notes about that.
- Do not underestimate the power of drywall dust to completely trash your lungs. Wear well fitted filtration masks and eye protection. Seriously, I mean it.
- It is *shocking* how fast you can destroy a structure. Admittedly, this one wasn’t well put together, but even if it had been. Holy crap. 4 people, 3 hours, and it was piles of trash on the floor.
- Invite friends over for this. It is WAY fun to tear shit apart. I’d even go so far as to say therapeutic. (BIG LOVE to Jeff, Geoff and Eris for their help!!)
- Be sure to keep a good grip on the sledgehammer. This may seem obvious. It should be. Just sayin’
- Be *very* sure where your electrical wires are, and either turn power off if you can, or be extra careful when tearing down around the live elements.
- Rent a rolloff dumpster. We went through TWO 20 cubic yard dumpsters all told. Granted some of that was flood damaged furniture as well, but still. Its a CRAPTON of trash. Be prepared for getting rid of it all.
I think this is a reasonable place to end this. The posts over the next weeks here will likely all be accompanied by pictures of the progress, or at least links to a gallery or something where I will keep all this sorted… in fact, I’m going to go make that now.
Watch this space for updates!!